Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: June 2, 2020
Is that a typo, or actually a new crossover? We are just as confused as you are. Mazda came out with the small CX-3 a while ago, but this is the CX-30. A ten-fold increase in size, power, and price, you ask? Not exactly. The CX-30 sits above the CX-3 in size but below the CX-5. Logic suggests it should have been called the CX-4, but Mazda has actually been selling a CX-4 exclusively overseas in China, so they had to become creative and add an extra zero at the end. Personally I would have preferred something along the lines of CX-3 Plus or CX-3 L, but whatever you want to call it, there’s no denying that Mazda’s newest SUV is a handsome entrant, channeling the design of the Mazda3 and uprooting it from the ground with more clearance and an upright stance. We’re not sure what’s going on with those massive wheel gaps, though. Even with the 18-inch wheels, they are large enough to stash a mountain’s worth of Pablo’s infamous exports.
There are two engines available for the Canadian market, both naturally aspirated and there are front- or all-wheel drive options available. The 2.0-litre four produces 155 hp and 150 lb-ft, while a larger 2.5-litre four delivers 186 hp and 186 lb-ft. Our CX-30 GT was loaded with the 2.5L and cylinder deactivation to save fuel, and you’d never notice its smooth transitions. Though frictionless, the powertrain lacks that burst of vigour, especially if you’re coming from a force-fed competitor. You will need to mat the gas pedal to get it sprinting, and we surely missed that turbocharged kick during last-second overtakes on the highway or when aggressively merging from on-ramps. We can only imagine how out of breath the 2.0L would feel out on the open road. There is a Sport Mode that holds back gear changes to squeeze out every piece of pulp from that motor, but it does little to change the overall drive, or to stimulate any added driver emotion. Be that as it may, t is much smoother and much more efficient than anything with a turbocharger. We averaged an impressive 7.8 L/100km just driving in the city alone, oddly more impressive than the Mazda3 GT AWD we drove with the same engine and tires.
The six-speed gearbox is well-tuned and mainly goes unnoticed behind the scenes - exactly what you want from an SUV that will mainly be assigned to daily duties rather than backroad excursions. It’s better, quieter, and seemingly just as efficient than any of its competitors utilizing those droning CVTs. The CX-30 makes for a fantastic beginner’s SUV, and owners looking for a casual, capable, and approachable daily driver. That said, there is a disconnect between the driver and the chassis, more so than the low-riding and more fluid Mazda3 hatchback. The top-heavy attribute of its heightened stance is a major turn-off, and the steering harbours a synthetic vagueness around its artificial rotation, sapping out a bit of driver confidence when going quickly. Still, the ride is exceptionally well sorted and feels more sure-footed and comfortable than a rivaling Hyundai Kona or Subaru Crosstrek.
But what every modern Mazda seems to ace is its interior design. This is Japanese artwork at its finest, and I would buy a Mazda just for the cabin atmosphere alone. The switchgear, dials, leather upholstery, is something you would find in a premium product like a Mercedes, not an economy-based car like a Mazda SUV. Switch the steering wheel badge to a silver star, and most people would believe it. Speaking of which, the leather-wrapped steering wheel screams money. Take note: even the airbag cover is layered with a smooth texture, whereas most other automakers make do with scratchy, ridged, black plastic covers. Just the feedback of the window switches alone are solid, refined, and expensive, and the rotary and volume dials that control the infotainment have a deliberate and focused click, with not a loose panel or gap in sight. This cabin design embarasses anything coming from Ford, GM, and Nissan especially. Also a fan of ASMR videos? The soft calming noise from the signal stalk indicator might scratch that itch too.
We did notice a few sore spots. The 8.8-inch center display is awkwardly mounted on top of the dashboard, where it appears to be hiding over the peak like it’s scared of you. It doesn’t make it hard to see, luckily, but the wraparound dashboard feel does make the cabin feel more claustrophobic than it really is. The seats are sunk low, and the door sills are high up to your shoulders, so the resulting window space is minimal, giving it that bunker-like feel. It’s not as cramped as a Chevrolet Camaro, and the rear seats are more spacious than the CX-3. The sunroof aids that airy feeling as well. Still, we don’t see how it’s any more practical, useful, or functional than the Mazda3 Sport hatchback which rides on the same bones, looks better, costs less, and is more fun to drive.
The Mazda CX-30 comes in three trims - GX ($23,950), GS ($26,650), GT ($33,850) - and while we won’t bore you with the options and features list, we can safely say that the GS with the added Luxury Package ($1,900) gives you the best bang for your buck. Of course, the GT with all its bells and whistles reigns supreme with its outlandishly upscale cabin, but the entrance fee is notably higher. I’d personally see myself in the cheaper and more athletic Mazda3 Sport instead but if it’s an SUV you’re after, you can’t go wrong with the CX-30. Taken as a whole experience, Mazda’s newest entrant may not be the quickest or the most dynamically equipped, but it's refreshing cabin design, impeccable fit and finish, and top-shelf materials, put it at the top of our recommended list of small SUVs under $30,000.
Model: 2020 Mazda CX-30 GT AWD
Paint Type: Soul Red Crystal Metallic
Base Price: $33,850
Price as Tested: $34,300
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,395 / 2,040 / 1,568
Curb weight (kg): 1,537
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower: 186 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 186 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 9.5 / 7.4